'I grew up in Palmdale, California, and it was desert-vibe meets the suburbs. I didn’t grow up around any ceramics in particular, but I was always really interested in it—the culture, the forms, the different colors, the glazes and shapes. When I graduated from art school in 2009, I worked for a few years in the motion graphics world, creating digital illustrations for animation. I knew I wanted to take a ceramics class, but I didn’t know how it would fit into my life because I was on the computer all day. But three years ago I took a class at this studio called Xiem, and I just became so addicted to it. There’s nothing else that I’ve found to be so connecting and therapeutic. A few months ago, I quit my day job as an art director to pursue ceramics and freelance illustration work full-time. A lot of really nice opportunities have come to me since starting Tactile Matter last year. I made that conscious push to get my website up. After that, I got picked up at West Elm for the West Elm Local project in December 2014. Some of my favorite shops like Exodus Goods, Otherwild and Reform School have picked up my pieces, too.
My day usually starts with a cup of coffee. That is first and foremost. Then I’m usually sending emails or going to ship off ceramics pieces. I can be on the computer illustrating and designing for half the day, and then the other half I’m usually in the studio. I like having good smells in the studio because a lot of the time there’s woodworking happening and other strong chemicals that are around. So I just love PF candles.
My daily makeup regimen is to put on a little bit of foundation and mascara—I use Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and Lancôme Définicils. I sometimes use this Kevyn Aucoin concealer for my dark circles. But, most often, if I know I’m going into the studio, I won’t put on makeup at all. When I’m taking a shower I’ll use a body scrub that I get from the Body Butter Lady at the Melrose Trading Post. It’s a scrub mixed with brown sugar and essential oils, and it just smells and feels amazing on my skin. If I’m cheating on the Body Butter Lady, I do it with Aesop. I really love their body wash and the Geranium Leaf Hydrating Body Treatment. I also use my own concoction–just a mix of shea butter, peppermint oil, and coconut oil. I’ll put it on my scalp, I’ll put it on my body, I’ll use it as a lip balm.
At night, maybe once a week I’ll use Radical Skincare Age-Defying Exfoliating Pads. Aside from that, in my night routine I don’t use anything on my face. I’ll just moisten a face towel or washcloth, wet my face, and then I’ll just use the exfoliating pads, and that’s it! I used to use a lot of skincare products—I grew up with bad breakouts and forehead bumps and a lot of pimples on the cheeks. It took me years before my skin started to really rejuvenate. Now that I’m 30, my skin is naturally less prone to breakouts, which is nice. When it gets warm in the studio and I need something refreshing on my skin, I’ll use this Moon Nectar Apothecary Mist that a friend of mine makes.
Before I started with ceramics, I could go the whole day without applying any type of hand cream. But working with clay I’m constantly washing my hands. Clay leaves a sort of residue on your skin, too, so it almost looks more dry than it actually is. I have to moisturize to get myself back to my natural tone. Using clays and glazes also makes my nails more brittle at times. With the nature of what I do, I have to keep my nails at the length of my finger, so they’re short! [Laughs] Today was a treat-yourself-day. It was the first time in a year that I’ve gone to a nail salon. But even today, I got this done maybe two hours ago, and I already have a lot of chipping. I just can’t keep it up for that long. And I find gel manicures to be very harsh on my nails—when I’m getting them taken off, my nails are just so thin after that. On the upside, I feel like wheel throwing has made my hands much stronger. I have a tighter grip, and I can open jars, so I feel like my arms have definitely gotten stronger from doing this.
If it’s a night where I’m going out with friends for drinks, I’ll put a little bit of blush on, definitely. It’s a bright blush– Nars Exhibit A. And MAC lipstick in the most vibrant color...or I have a pinky Yves Saint Laurent color that's good to use. I use eyebrow filler—a MAC brow powder [ed. note: no longer available]—just to give them a little thickness. I have very thin eyebrows, so I try where I can.
I have played with so many different hairstyles. Growing up, my mom always had me in braids. I even had the braided bangs. I remember hating them so much—they were not cute. I shaved my head about two years ago, like completely shaved it off. Once it grew long enough to do anything with it, I just started getting it braided again. It’s just the easiest solution. They go down to my hips. I usually wrap my hair and put it up in a top bun, and it’s pretty easy. The only thing I use on it is some of my own treatment —the shea butter and peppermint oil on my scalp—and I’ll use a little bit of Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme on my edges. If anything, I’m just trying to get clay out of my hair. Once it fell out of my wrap, and it fell down like whoosh and got wrapped around my clay piece. [Laughs] It was just a disaster, with clay all in the crevices of the braids. I’ve had some pretty interesting clay-related experiences. Now I try to keep a head wrap on my hair while I’m in front of the wheel.”
—as told to ITG
Kenesha Sneed photographed by Emily Knecht in Los Angeles on September 11, 2015. Interview by Ann Friedman.